Defending the Brain Against Radiation’s Effects
When the brain is exposed to radiation, it can result in cognitive disturbances, including memory loss, intense headaches and speech impairment, whether radiation is received in the process of cancer treatment or via a solar particle event (SPE) while traveling in space.
Robert D. Hienz, Ph.D., an NSBRI-funded investigator at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is researching how radiation affects the brain and possible means to prevent or mitigate the damage.
Animal models show that there is individual susceptibility to the effects of radiation. Preliminary data suggests that the dopamine pathway is involved, suggesting that certain drugs that affect this pathway may be used to reduce the cognitive side effects of radiation exposure.
Learn more about this project at www.nsbri.org
Evaluating Tissue Health with Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
On Earth, the standard diagnostic tools for brain imaging are MRI or CT scans. However, the bulky, specialized equipment required for these standard tests renders them impractical in space. NSBRI enlisted Gary Strangman, Ph.D., to devise an affordable and portable method for brain imaging.
The resulting solution, based on near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), also shows promise in emergency medicine, where it can be used to detect internal bleeding and assess the severity of head injury, as well as remote medical environments, where it provides an affordable and portable alternative to larger, more traditional equipment used for imaging.
The device is also being adapted to provide assessment of the health of other tissues.
Learn more about this project at www.nsbri.org
Improving Prediction of Cardiovascular Risk
Approximately 1 in 3 American adults have one or more forms of heart disease. A heart attack in space could not only endanger the astronaut but also compromise an entire mission.
NASA takes great care to assess astronauts’ individual vulnerability to risk of heart attack and continues to support research that will improve their ability to predict and treat cardiovascular events.
Dr. Benjamin Levine, Cardiovascular Alterations Team Leader with NSBRI, is investigating whether the rate of change in calcium score, rather than an absolute score, is more predictive of cardiovascular events.
Dr. Levine's research is refining and improving upon the established model used to estimate an individual’s 10-year cardiovascular risk, the Framingham Risk Score. This work will result in a new tool for flight surgeons and clinicians to use in treatment decisions related to cardiovascular risk.
Learn more about this project at nsbri.org
Countering the Effects of Radiation on Bone
NSBRI researchers have demonstrated in animal models that radiation exposure like that received by patients undergoing proton therapy or astronauts exposed to space radiation has a deleterious effect on bone. Hence, it is believed that these individuals would have a higher risk of bone fracture.
Drs. Ruth Globus at NASA Ames Research Center and Ted Bateman at University of North Carolina are investigating the effectiveness of bisphosphonates and antioxidants in countering the effects of radiation on bone.
Since their research involves currently available products, it is immediately applicable to patients undergoing radiation therapy.
Learn more about NSBRI research on mitigating bone loss.
NSBRI Industry Forum Opens New Line of Research for ACell
When astronauts travel outside low-Earth orbit, they will be at risk of exposure to bursts of radiation called solar particle events (SPEs). The health problems, called acute radiation sickness (ARS), caused by the SPEs can occur immediately. Symptoms of ARS include nausea, vomiting and fatigue, followed by potential skin injury and changes to white blood cell counts and the immune system.
The Center of Acute Radiation Research (CARR) Director Dr. Ann Kennedy is leading a group of researchers working on five projects to assess the immediate effects of radiation exposure from SPEs, better define the risks, and develop and test methods to protect astronauts.
When Industry Forum Lead Dr. Dorit Donoviel saw the wound healing products being marketed by SMARTCAP awardee ACell, she saw synergy with the work being performed by the CARR. Now, ACell is partnering with the CARR to test their products’ effectiveness in healing radiation-related skin damage, a commercial area never previously investigated by the companny.
Miniaturized, Portable Oxygen Concentrators
Oxygen is a valuable, but limited, resource on a spacecraft. Much planning is needed to ensure that a crew has enough oxygen during its flight. But what if the unexpected happens and additional oxygen is needed for treatment of an astronaut with a serious injury or major illness? One solution is oxygen concentrators, devices that extract oxygen out of the air using electricity. Current versions, however, are not ideal for space travel due to their large size, mass and power requirement
Dr. James A. Ritter and colleagues are conducting a research project to determine if it is possible to combine rapid Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology with new air compressor designs to develop light, compact concentrators that use minimal electricity and can supply oxygen continuously for several days. The researchers have successfully used computer simulations and testing of components to identify approaches to improve the efficiency of the PSA separation and develop oxygen concentrators that are more ideal for use on spacecraft.
This work leverages significant efforts and investments by the U.S. Department of Defense, who are also interested in providing critical care grade oxygen in remote settings. These advances will also enhance life on Earth for patients who are currently tethered to bulky oxygen tanks, and will also improve outcomes in emergency medicine and disaster recovery situations.
Learn more about this research at www.nsbri.org
Move Over, X-Ray: Ultrasound for Bone Diagnostics and Accelerated Fracture Healing
Dr. Yi-Xian Qin and his team of researchers have developed a
diagnostic and therapeutic system for assessing bone that is delivering powerful
results with a very small footprint. The technology, developed to
monitor bone health of astronauts in space, is affordable, portable, and
Qin's Scanning Confocal Acoustic Navigation (SCAN) is unique in its
ability to measure both bone quantity (density) and bone quality (which
would affect strength). It delivers more accurate results at lower cost
than conventional methods and does not expose the patient to x-ray
In addition to its novel diagnostic capabilities, SCAN technology is
being combined successfully with low-intensity pulsed ultrasound to
accelerate bone fracture healing. The remarkable, dual-purpose
technology is small, lightweight, easy-to-use, and portable, making it a
revolutionary development for osteoporosis care in remote, rural, and
Pulsar Informatics Releases SleepFit App for Android
Previously featured company Pulsar Informatics has reached another milestone, the release of their new SleepFit Android app in the Android Marketplace.
The product is a spinoff of the PVT test developed by Pulsar Informatics with support from NSBRI
for use by astronauts during spaceflight to help them determine their
fatigue levels. The app was developed using funding from the NSBRI
Industry Forum’s SMARTCAP program and matching funding from Schneider
Trucking, who will use the new app to monitor fatigue and performance in long-haul truck drivers.
The app offers an alarm clock and
sleep log, in addition to the response-time test, so users can observe
the direct effect of their sleep levels on their physical performance. Android users can download the app at http://bit.ly/Jeljc5.
Drs. Larry Crum and Michael Bailey at the University of Washington have recently developed unique applications of ultrasound to address the need for surgeries that cannot be performed in the reduced gravity environment of space.
Their work has included the use of ultrasound for:
- Detection and management of kidney stones
- Detection and management of internal bleeding
- Bloodless removal of tumors
- Reduction of kidney stone size
These non-invasive capabilities could prove valuable in:
- Emergency medical treatment
- Medicine in remote areas
- Military applications
See a YouTube video on the use of ultrasound to treat kidney stones
Space Programs Making an Impact on Global Health
Sustainable technologies, along with
education, training and access, can make an impact on global health. Using
approaches developed for the space program, the NSBRI Industry Forum is
assisting NSBRI-funded investigators in translating their research and
technologies to use on Earth. Work to protect astronaut health has advanced
detection, treatment and prevention of injury, disease and other ailments in
third-world countries and resource-constrained environments such as emergency
medical care. For further information on this project, please see the work
of Dr. Scott Dulchavsky and his colleagues at Henry Ford Health Systems:
Intuitive Ultrasound Catalog for Autonomous Medical
See a video illustrating how NSBRI-funded work by Dr. Dulchavsky has improved medical care around the world.
Interview With Gary Lessing | CEO of Corridor Pharmaceuticals
the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessel) contributes to many diseases
such as atherosclerosis, coronary disease, systemic and pulmonary
hypertension, and diabetes. These conditions are associated with an increase
in arginase activity and a decrease in nitric oxide. We are focused on the
discovery and development of novel therapeutics for vascular diseases based
on our proprietary arginase inhibition platform. The novel therapeutics will
also mitigate the damage done to the lining of blood vessels during
radiation exposure experienced in space travel and radiation treatment for
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Interview with John L. Brooks III | CEO of Reflectance Medical
Reflectance Medical uses non-invasive near infrared
spectroscopy to determine muscle oxygen and pH. The spectra are processed by
proprietary algorithms to assess the oxygen utilization in muscle tissues. The
technology will be used in hospitals and it will provide information on the
exercise and physiologic status of astronauts in space.
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Interview with Daniel J. Mollicone, Ph.D. | President and CEO of Pulsar Informatics
This young company develops computerized cognitive testing tools and
biomathematical models to track human performance capability and deliver
countermeasures to reduce fatigue-related human error in high-risk 24/7
operational domains. With grant funding from NSBRI, Pulsar is collaborating
with Dr. David Dinges to enhance a rapid psychomotor assessment test called
the PVT and is developing other testing platforms for the home healthcare,
occupational performance, and pharmaceutical clinical trials
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